The wretched Panther crys aloud for aid
To church and councils, whom she first betray’d;
No help from Fathers or traditions train
Those ancient guides she taught us to disdain.
And by that scripture which she once abus’d
To Reformation, stands herself accus’d.
What bills for breach of laws can she prefer,
Expounding which she owns her self may err?
And, after all her winding ways are try’d,
If doubts arise, she slips herself aside
And leaves the private conscience for the guide.
If then that conscience set th’ offender free,
It bars her claim to church auctority.
How can she censure, or what crime pretend,
But Scripture may be constru’d to defend?
Ev’n those whom for rebellion she transmits
To civil pow’r, her doctrine first acquits;
Because no disobedience can ensue,
Where no submission to a Judge is due;
Each judging for himself, by her consent,
Whom thus absolv’d she sends to punishment.
Suppose the Magistrate revenge her cause,
’Tis only for transgressing humane laws.
How answ’ring to its end a church is made,
Whose pow’r is but to counsel and perswade?
O solid rock, on which secure she stands!
Eternal house, not built with mortal hands!
Oh sure defence against th’ infernal gate,
A patent during pleasure of the state!
Thus is the Panther neither lov’d nor fear’d,
A mere mock Queen of a divided Herd;
Whom soon by lawful pow’r she might controll,
Her self a part submitted to the whole.
Then, as the Moon who first receives the light
By which she makes our nether regions bright,
So might she shine, reflecting from afar
The rays she borrowed from a better Star:
Big with the beams which from her mother flow
And reigning o’er the rising tides below:
Now, mixing with a salvage croud, she goes,
And meanly flatters her invet’rate foes,
Rul’d while she rules, and losing ev’ry hour
Her wretched remnants of precarious pow’r.
from The Hind and the Panther: A Poem in Three Parts, 1687
by John Dryden, 1631-1700 (the Panther is the Church of England)
Fr Lee Kenyon